Sir Keir Starmer slammed Boris Johnson over suggestions he had not spoken out against the Sailsbury poisonings, telling the PM to ‘check the record’ during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Johnson accused the leader of the opposition of ‘sitting on his hands’ when it came to commenting on the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last year.
Answering why he had taken so long to release the Russia report, Johnson said: ‘Actually Mr Speaker, when I was foreign secretary, we had taken the strongest possible action against Russian wrongdoing, orchestrating the expulsion of 153 Russian diplomats around the world.
‘The right and honourable gentleman opposite sat on his hands and said nothing while the Labour party parroted the line of the Kremlin when people of this country were poisoned by the orders of Vladimir Putin.’
Sir Keir fired back: ‘Mr Speaker, I stood up and condemned what happened in Salisbury and I supported the then prime minister on record.’
‘I ask the prime minister to check the record and withdraw that. I was very, very clear.’
He reiterated he was ‘absolutely clear’ in condemning Russian aggression in Salisbury, adding he was previously involved in bringing proceedings against Russia on behalf of the family of poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko.
He went on to ask about delays in bringing forward new security legislation, to which Boris Johnson insisted new laws are coming in connection with espionage, theft of intellectual property and sanctions.
The leader of the opposition accused the government of not ‘even having its eye on the pitch’ concerning the threat Russia posed to UK national security.
‘The [Russia] report was very clear that the government badly underestimated the Russian threat and the response required.
‘It’s still playing catch up. The government has taken its eye off the ball, arguably, it didn’t even have its eye on the pitch.’